By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

Graphic courtesy of Tri-County

Tri-County Electric is nearing the end of Phase 1 of its broadband buildout in Trousdale County and is looking to begin Phase 2 in the coming weeks.

The utility did recently find out that it would not receive a portion of $10 million in grant funding provided by state legislature in the 2017 Broadband Accessibility Act, but officials said that would not hamper efforts to expand service.

“We didn’t get awarded any grant money and obviously, that’s disappointing,” said Paul Thompson, Executive Vice President/General Manager of Tri-County. “However, we’re very thankful for what we got in round one and it doesn’t change what we plan to do in Year 2.”

Tri-County received $1.35 million in 2018, the first of three years in which the state will provide grants for broadband expansion.

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Thompson noted a delay in getting the Phase 1 rollout complete, which covers most of Trousdale County west of the downtown area.

“Weather’s been a big factor and has slowed us down a lot; we also had to change contractors. The one we started with just wasn’t meeting our expectations,” Thompson said.

Thompson said he expected Phase 1 to be complete in mid-April. The original timeline called for completion sometime in March.

“The ones we’ve got connected are extremely happy with their service; we’ve got nearly all the drops built on 231 South toward Lebanon,” he said. “We think we’re on track to finish it all by the middle of April.”

Phase 2, when it begins, primarily will feed from the downtown area, including Puryears Bend Road, Boat Dock Road, 141 North and South, out to near the Highway 10 intersection.

“We had hoped to try to combine Years 2 and 3, but it looks like we will still be in a three-year build,” said Tammy Dixon, Marketing Manager for Tri-County.

Thompson said in the next few weeks, Tri-County would be contacting residents in the Phase 2 area to gauge interest in broadband service. Public meetings will be held similar to ones held before Phase 1 construction, but no timeline has been set for those meetings.

“We’re going to try to focus on initial builds on where the biggest demand is,” Thompson said. “There was a lot of interest and we got people signed up, and then we had to wait until we heard from the grant.

“What we want to do this year is get a good handle on and finish the first phase, then go into these meetings with a more structured approach. I feel comfortable with what we’ll be able to deal in Year 2.”

Tri-County’s broadband service provides 50MB download/upload for $49.95 per month, 100MB for $59.95 per month and 1 GB for $89.95 per month with no data caps. Installations are free, provided that customers sign up for Tri-County’s Demand Response program. That program allows the utility to monitor cycling processes of HVAC units and water heaters, while the homeowner retains control of their system.

To signup for Internet service or to get on the list for when construction reaches your area, call 615-688-2114 or go online to www.tcemc.org/fiber/signup.

Service will remain unavailable in the southern portion of Trousdale County served by Middle Tennessee Electric. An amendment proposed by State Sen. Ferrell Haile to allow electric cooperatives to team up was withdrawn due to opposition from other entities.

“I didn’t feel like we could get that through this year. Certainly we want to try to address that again next year,” Haile told The Vidette. “We don’t need to put hindrances on our rural… cooperatives that want to work together.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.